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Photo: Bloomberg
Photo: Bloomberg

Pollution debate takes centre stage in Lok Sabha, Oppn calls for action

  • Congress demands setting up of a statutory panel, BJP blames Delhi govt for taking inadequate measures
  • Delhi’s air quality has begun to worsen and is likely to reach ‘severe’ levels by 21 November

NEW DELHI : With air quality levels beginning to deteriorate in the National Capital Region (NCR) again, the Opposition on Tuesday attacked the central government demanding stronger action to prevent the toxic smog that has threatened the health of millions of residents.

“Pollution occurs every year, why is it, but why no voice is raised against it? And, the problem is not just restricted to Delhi. At least 15 of the top 20 most polluted cities in the world are in India, which includes Jind, Agra, Jodhpur, Lucknow and Patna," said Congress MP Manish Tewari, as he opened the debate on air pollution in the Lok Sabha.

Highlighting the example of China’s capital city, Beijing, which has managed to bring down the PM2.5 levels over the years, the Punjab MP said: “If Beijing can clear its ambient air, why can’t we?"

“Beijing had adopted a series of measures focusing on cleaner fuels, industrial restructuring and they were able to bring down the levels of sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide to meet the national standards. We also need stringent action. The Air Act, 1981, should be strengthened."

Tewari also demanded setting up of a statutory panel to address air pollution all-year round.

Another MP from Punjab, Amar Singh, demanded that the Centre must take the lead in addressing the pollution problem. “It is ironic, that on one side, the government talks about reducing pollution, on the other it gives permissions to the same industries which cause pollution. There needs to be a balance between environment and industrial development," said the Congress MP from Fatehgarh Sahib.

Highlighting that stubble burning is not the primary cause for Delhi’s pollution, Biju Janata Dal MP from Odisha Pinaki Mishra said blaming small and marginal farmers for the pollution was not right.

“Farmers are being needlessly vilified. This year, stubble burning started around 10 October, but Delhi’s pollution levels touched severe levels on 27th, during Diwali. There is massive use of bad quality firecrackers. The influx of vehicles has also been rising rapidly."

Delhi MP Gautam Gambhir, who was criticized for skipping a crucial parliamentary committee meet on air pollution, also joined the debate. “We should not get into a blame game. Air pollution should not be made into an election issue. Let’s look for long-term solutions. Merely penalizing farmers for burning stubble will not be enough."

Delhi BJP president Manoj Tiwari put the blame on the Delhi government for not making adequate use of funds to address the problem.

The proceedings were adjourned to Wednesday morning, when Union environment minister Prakash Javadekar is expected to reply.

The air quality in Delhi has begun to worsen and entered the higher end of the ‘poor’ category on Tuesday. According to the government’s air quality monitoring service, it is likely to reach ‘severe’ levels by 21 November.

Meanwhile, President Ram Nath Kovind also called for urgent action to tackle air pollution in the national capital, while addressing a conference of directors of IITs and NITs at Rashtrapati Bhawan on Tuesday.

“Many scientists have painted doomsday scenarios. On days of smog and poor visibility in our cities, we fear the future might already be here. We are facing a kind of challenge here that we have never faced before," he said.

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